Short Film: Cannes Award Winner Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s ‘When the Kid Was a Kid’

Why Watch? Not quite yet done with the Cannes Film Festival, here’s a film from one of this year’s award winners. Anahita Ghazvinizadeh won first prize in the Cinefondation short competition for Needle, a narrative film about a young girl living through both the piercing of her ears and her parents’ divorce. The Cinefondation jury was led by Jane Campion, and Ghazvinizadeh was awarded €15,000 (about $19,500).

While Needle is not yet online, we can watch one of Ghazvinizadeh’s earlier shorts on her Vimeo page. When the Kid Was a Kid won various awards at Iranian film festivals in 2011 and 2012, and deservedly so. It’s a glimpse into the lives of a bunch of kids living in an apartment building, who entertain themselves by play-acting as their parents throwing a party. The focus is on Taha, a young boy attending the affair dressed as his mother. He raids her bedroom for a dress, a wig, a pair of heels and plenty of make-up. All things considered, he does a pretty decent job as a fledgling female impersonator. The most striking thing is the way that the whole group of children, boys and girls both, treat this as nothing out of the ordinary. There’s none of the anxiety or awkwardness of Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy, for example. Rather there’s a real sense of understanding, particularly regarding the mannerisms and proclivities of the off-screen adults.

In the end, this film is perhaps more about Taha’s relationship with his mother than it is about gender roles (though the two are obviously very closely intertwined). She is absent for the whole film, heard only in a voicemail she leaves to let her son know that she’ll be home late. We learn that she’s raising him on her own. Ghazvinizadeh hardly makes any facile point about the learning experience of walking in his mother’s heels, but it does seem like Taha has reached a complex and emotionally strained understanding of her presence by the film’s beautiful and resonant final shot.

What Will It Cost? About 17 minutes.

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Daniel Walber is a freelance critic living in Brooklyn. He holds a MA in cinema studies from New York University, loves any movie under 80 minutes, and is gay for Bette Davis.

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